Gov. Janet Mills attends an event at the Blaine House, in this June 17, 2021, file photo in Augusta, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

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I am asking Gov. Janet Mills to dedicate some of the state’s $822 million projected surplus to the people who dedicate their lives to caring for Maine’s seniors, young children and people with disabilities. Mainers are ready to go back to work, go back to school, and go back to the local shops that fuel our economy, but we can’t because the state has failed to shore up the system of care that would allow us to do that.

Our society is now acutely aware that the system of care has been severely undercut by the low wages paid to direct support workers. We can no longer hire or retain these critical caregivers, so it is essential that Mills use some of the surplus to increase their pay.

I continue to hope that President Joe Biden’s sweeping human infrastructure bill —  Build Back Better — will rescue us by providing a huge infusion dedicated to the support and care for people with disabilities, older adults and young children.

However, Mills has a unique opportunity to propel Maine’s progress and prosperity forward by making a similar investment. Maine can’t move forward unless we invest in the care economy.

Mainers do deserve a portion of that surplus in the form of a tax break, but that can’t be the governor’s only strategy. Allowing Mainers to go back to work and fully participate in the economy would go much further toward an economic recovery.

Maggie Hoffman